Ford Motor (NYSE:F) revealed its all-new 2020 Explorer SUV at an event in Detroit on Wednesday evening. The popular three-row crossover has been completely redesigned on a new rear-wheel-drive architecture, with more room and more towing capacity.
The new Explorer is a big deal. The Explorer has been a huge seller for Ford for years, generating hearty profits especially in upscale trims, but sales (and profits) sagged last year as newer rivals stole sales. The company is betting that the all-new Explorer will reverse those trends when it begins arriving at U.S. dealers this summer. Here's what we know.
What's new about the 2020 Explorer: Everything
While it looks a lot like the current model, the all-new Explorer really is all-new. It's built on a new rear-wheel-drive architecture that gives it a distinctive look, as well as more towing capacity and more room inside. (The new Lincoln Aviator SUV is built on the same architecture.)
Why rear-wheel drive, when nearly all of the Explorer's competitors are built on front-wheel-drive platforms? That question contains one of the answers: It's a competitive differentiator. These days, rear-wheel drive is associated with luxury vehicles. But there are practical advantages as well: In addition to the added towing capacity, the new architecture will give four-wheel-drive versions of the new Explorer improved rough-weather and off-road capabilities.
But while the new Explorer has a bit more "truck" added to its feature set, it's a far cry from the truck-based Explorers of old. This new Explorer should be quite refined on the road, thanks to its unibody construction, a new 10-speed automatic transmission, and a long list of standard comfort and convenience features.
The current Explorer isn't exactly cramped, but the new model is roomier inside. Notably, it's a bit wider -- with the seats folded down, it can carry a 4- by 8-foot sheet of plywood, a feat the outgoing model can't manage.
The new Explorer comes standard with Ford's well-regarded 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, which will make 300 horsepower and 310 pounds-feet of torque in this application. With an optional trailer-towing package, Explorers with the 2.3-liter engine will have 5,300 pounds of towing capacity, up from just 3,000 pounds in current base-model Explorers.
A 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 making 365 horsepower and 380 pounds-feet of torque is part of the top-level Platinum trim. Explorers with the 3.0-liter engine will have towing capacity of 5,600 pounds.
Like the outgoing model, the all-new Explorer will be built at the automaker's Chicago Assembly Plant. It'll arrive in U.S. showrooms this summer.
What it means: A strong new entry in a hugely important segment
Simply put, one of America's favorite family haulers is gaining a lot of new capability without a huge price hike: The new Explorer will start at $33,860, up $400 from the outgoing model -- a price that should keep it competitive with key rivals like Toyota's (NYSE:TM) Highlander and General Motors' (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Traverse.
The new Explorer is arguably arriving just in time. While sales of the current model have remained fairly strong, it has lost some ground to rivals for one simple reason: The current Explorer was first introduced in 2011, and it has lost a few steps to newer competitors.
|Vehicle||2018 U.S. Sales||Change vs. 2017|
Crucially, note that the Highlander outsold the Explorer in the U.S. for the first time last year.
Ford -- and its shareholders -- hope that the all-new Explorer will give the Highlander and other rivals much stiffer competition when it arrives this summer. On paper at least, it looks ready for the challenge.